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Competing discourses of conservation and sustainability in state-sponsored tourism development: A critical analysis of the Lake Toba case in Indonesia

The Indonesian government has an ambitious project to develop the tourism sector and to increase the state's foreign exchange: the National Tourism Strategic Area (KSPN). The project has been prioritised in ten regions, one of which is Lake Toba in the province of North Sumatera. In promoting this project, the government has claimed that the Lake Toba tourism development programme will conserve nature and contribute positively to the economic development of the local community of North Sumatera province. The project has, however, faced resistance from the locals, and in particular the community of Sigapiton village in the Tobasa regency, because the land claimed by the Lake Toba Tourism Authority or Badan Otorita Pariwisata Danau Toba (BOPDT) is customary land belonging to local clans. In examining this conflict, this study investigates how the discourses of conservation and sustainability have been deployed by the government and challenged by the local community in the struggle for control over natural resources in the Lake Toba region. This study uses the critical discourse analysis (CDA) approach to uncover and analyse the discourses used by the government to control natural resources in the context of ecotourism in Lake Toba. Specifically, the study adopts Fairclough's (2012) notion of three domains that must be analysed, namely text (speech, writing, visual images, or a combination of all three); discursive practices that include the production and consumption of texts; and social practices. The analysis demonstrates that the government not only uses the discourses of sustainability and conservation to govern the natural resources at Lake Toba but also optimises policy setting and development incentives to implement an institutional arrangement through the establishment of the forestry estate as a process of "territorialisation" of land claimed as state forest. The arrangement requires the existence of binding agreements and regulations to determine who has the right to and control over natural resources, as well as formulate their conditions to access it. Furthermore, the government uses two issues to promote the Lake Toba tourism project, namely environment (nature conservation) and social-economic welfare. The government argues that the project aims to conserve nature and improve the local economy.The government also claims that the project can stimulate local awareness of the need for nature conservation. Civil society has countered government arguments by advancing the concept of “green grabbing”. They believe that in fact Lake Toba represents a new model of community exclusion, where communities are excluded from their traditional lands and living space on the grounds of ecotourism.
Type of thesis
Mujib, T. (2020). Competing discourses of conservation and sustainability in state-sponsored tourism development: A critical analysis of the Lake Toba case in Indonesia (Thesis, Master of Environment and Society (MEnvSoc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14103
The University of Waikato
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